'Berg creates first faculty endowed chair

Mar 27, 2013
David & Peg Baker (left) and Joan and Ralph Talmage
David & Peg Baker (left) and Joan and Ralph Talmage

A family of educators with strong ties to Heidelberg University has created an endowed faculty chair to honor their legacy as teachers and to support academic excellence and future teachers at the university.

The Swinehart Family Endowed Chair in Education at Heidelberg University is one of six endowed faculty chairs that will be created at Heidelberg in the coming years. It is the first to be fully funded and will be the first to be filled, beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.

Last summer, President Robert H. Huntington announced that six generous donors had come forward with their intent to create endowed faculty chairs in support of the university’s transformational $75 million Academic Comprehensive Campaign for Excellence. Three of those chairs will be made possible through planned estate gifts, while the other three will result from cash gifts that will come to fruition over the next 3-4 years, including the Swinehart endowed chair.

“The significance of this gift from Ralph and Joan (Swinehart) Talmage and David and Peg (Swinehart) Baker cannot and should not go understated,” Huntington said, adding that this is the first fully funded endowed faculty chair in Heidelberg’s history.

The family chose to designate Heidelberg’s School of Education as the beneficiary in recognition of the role Heidelberg has played in their families and careers and to support the preparation of future educators, said Peg Baker. “The training of future educators is something very valuable,” she said. “We would like to be part of the movement for excellence in education.”

Her sister, Joan Talmage, echoed those sentiments. “This is something we truly believe in,” Joan Talmage said. “It says we value education and this (funding) will be there for future teachers. We just think this is a very important issue.” She hopes that the establishment of the chair will encourage others to follow suit.

As a family of educators, the majority of whom are Heidelberg graduates, “We are proud of the education department at Heidelberg,” Peg Baker said. “We were served well by Heidelberg and we want to pass that on to future generations.”

The Swineharts’ legacy at Heidelberg and in the field of education is well-established. Peg Baker and Joan Talmage grew up in a family that greatly valued education. They married men from families that also made significant sacrifices to assure that all their children had the opportunity for a college education. Their father, Scott Swinehart, was the first in his generation to go to college. When he graduated in 1933, he became the first in a long line of family members who proudly called Heidelberg their alma mater. During a time when it could be challenging for women to attend college, Peg and Joan’s mother, Mary Jane Ewing Swinehart, received her college degree and teaching certificate, coincidentally on the same day in 1962 that her son, S. David, graduated from Heidelberg. Both Scott and David went on to seminary and successful careers in the ministry.

Peg Baker, a ’60 Heidelberg graduate, devoted her career to teaching English and directing school plays, and then she became a reference librarian. She married Dr. David Baker, ’58, whose founded the National Center for Water Quality Research and currently serves as director emeritus. Both of David Baker’s siblings and a niece are alumni; the Bakers’ three children are all educators and their seven grandchildren continue the tradition of quality education.

Joan Talmage graduated from Heidelberg in 1968, earned a master’s degree in education and enjoyed a successful career as a preschool and elementary teacher. Her husband, Ralph, graduated from The Ohio State University and has forged a successful business career in Columbus. He joined the Heidelberg Board of Trustees in 2006, and currently serves as treasurer. The Talmages’ two sons have followed an educational path as well.

Huntington announced that Heidelberg will launch this faculty chair beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. It will be a rotating chair with three-year appointments within the School of Education. The university is in the process of determining criteria for the awarding of the chair, the first of which will go to an existing faculty member, he said.

“Heidelberg is profoundly grateful to the Swinehart family for this generous gift that will allow us to continue our focus on academic excellence while providing much-needed support to our faculty.”